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Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842 – 1900)
book by Sir W.S. GILBERT (1836 – 1911)
Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride

Reginald Bunthorne - Martyn Green
Patience - Margaret Mitchell
Archibald Grosvenor - Alan Styler
Major Murgatroyd - Peter Pratt
Colonel Calverly - Darrell Fancourt
Lt. Duke of Dunstable - Leonard Osborn (track 12)
Lt. Duke of Dunstable - Neville Griffiths (tracks 18, 19,22)
Lady Angela - Yvonne Dean
Lady Saphir - Ann Drummond-Grant
Lady Ella - Muriel Harding
Lady Jane - Ella Halman
The D’Oyly Carte Opera Chorus and Orchestra/Isidore Godfrey
Based upon Decca LK4047/8 - recorded 1951, London. ADD
NAXOS 8.110233 [70.38]

 

Patience is an opera, which by all normal criteria should have fallen totally out of popularity. This is because it is a parody of The Aesthetic Movement, of which there is no modern equivalent - despite perhaps a few resonances in ‘Flower Power’. However the book shows Gilbert at his best and Sullivan responded with gusto. The plot is full of unexpected turns and developments with an ending which promises happiness to all the cast apart from Bunthorne himself. A strong feature is the brilliant military music that has a fine swagger. The song "A magnet hung in a hardware shop" is one of Sullivan’s most famous. The opera contains some of Sullivan’s most brilliant woodwind scoring. For example the quintet in Act 2, "If Sapir I chose to marry", has exciting syncopations in the accompaniment combined with a spectacular high clarinet counterpoint. This is also repeated in the finale.

There have been three post-war recordings made and this is the earliest having been recorded in mono in 1951. The most recent recording was made by EMI in 1962 with a star cast including George Baker, John Cameron and Monica Sinclair with the Glyndebourne Chorus and the Pro Arte Orchestra conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. On paper, this should have swept the board. Unfortunately this was recorded not long before Sargent’s death and the lack of vigour in the performance was perhaps due to ill health on his part. Sadly despite its merits that Sargent-EMI version cannot be recommended.

The other recording appeared two years before Sargent’s. It is again by the D’Oyly Carte Company with a good cast including John Reed, Kenneth Sandford and Gillian Knight. It is recorded in stereo, complete with dialogue on a double CD set, conducted by the estimable Isidore Godfrey, by Decca.

The present version is just one from a comprehensive series of 1950s Decca recordings reissued by Naxos. Martin Green, a veteran of the D’Oyly Carte Company who sings in good voice and radiates character, plays the part of Bunthorne, the most ambiguous of Gilbertian parts. Darrell Fancourt joined D’Oyly Carte in 1920 and here plays Colonel Calverly with the excellent vocal projection and clear diction for which he was renowned. Margaret Mitchell sings the part of Patience with good presence. Ellan Halman has an interesting contralto voice and makes an arresting Lady Jane.

The D’Oyly Carte Company in its recorded performances maintained surprisingly consistent standards for over half a century and the overall vocal performances make it difficult to choose between the 1951 Naxos and 1960 Decca recordings; although, if pressed, I would, by a small margin, plump for the earlier version. However there is no doubt that the later version gains considerably from the smoother stereo sound. The deciding factor in choosing between these two probably lies in whether or not you want the dialogue. If, like me, you find dialogue irritating for repeated listening you would choose the Naxos. This also has the advantage of being considerably cheaper. The Naxos notes are excellent.

Arthur Baker



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